Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart fails in bid to suppress details of family fued

She's the billionaire of the moment.

The Australian media cannot get enough of Gina Rinehart, and on Friday they hit pay dirt when a court released details of "intimate emails" from the mining magnate's daughters complaining that they did not have enough money to support their young children.

Rinehart initially hit the headlines this week over her bid to take a larger share in one of the country's most high profile media companies, Fairfax.

Rinehart — Australia's richest person, and until recently one of its most-secretive — has made no secret of the fact that she wants a bigger say in how the country is governed.

And she's not afraid to use her vast wealth to do it.

(Down Under reports: Gina Rinehart, Australian billionaire, seeks bigger stake in Fairfax media)

But along with an increased media presence comes increased media scrutiny, it seems.

And when salacious details of Rinehart's court feud with three of her four children — at issue is their lack of access to a multibillion dollar trust fund — were released despite extreme efforts to suppress them, the media pounced.

Lawyers for Rinehart had argued that reporting of her immense wealth and legal battles would increase her profile (no arguments there) and expose her, her children and grandchildren to the risk of kidnapping, death threats and extortion (a Supreme court judge in the state of News South Wales disagreed).

According to The Sydney Morning Herald (one of the newspapers in the stable Rinehart is seeking to buy influence over), documents released by the court included an email from Hope Rinehart Welker, 26, to her mother in which she asks for a cook, bodyguard and housekeeper for her birthday: ''I would buy them myself but I'm down to my last $60,000 and your [sic] only paying my husband $1 a year.''

Welker, who lives in New York, goes on:

"I don't think you understand what it means now that the whole world thinks you're going to be wealthier than Bill Gates — it means we all need bodyguards and very safe homes!! I should have enough money to have a bodyguard, housekeeper and cook. Even my friends who have nothing compared to your wealth have more staff.''

Bianca Rinehart, who lives in Vancouver with her partner and child, wrote that she feared being targeted.

"We are, by all accounts, the highest risk family in all of Australia for future similar attacks … I would like to have security personnel present as you have with Kevin. Unfortunately I do not have the financial means to achieve this and ask that you consider sponsoring such an arrangement or please makes funds available.''

So how rich (and vulnerable) is Rinehart? According to the Forbes website, she's worth a cool $18 billion (16.8 billion Australian dollars), up from $9 billion last year.

And if projections are correct, she's expected take over the helm of world's richest woman from American Christy Walton, of Wal-Mart fame, who has $24.5 billion, given Australia's mining boom is fed by strong demand from China.

Rinehart's legal team had presented the court with an independent risk assessment by international security firm Control Risks, which contended that reporting of the family trust dispute would increase the likelihood of abduction and kidnap for ransom, robbery, protest and harassment from ''criminals, deranged individuals and issue-motivated groups'."

Rinehart's plight was even compared to that of the English footballer David Beckham and his wife, Victoria '"Posh Spice" and the US talk-show host David Letterman.

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